The Ultimate Boat Buying Guide for Newbies

Setting out to buy your first boat is an exciting journey, akin to launching into a thrilling new adventure. We will help you decode the complexities of hull shapes, manage your budget, and more. Whether you are envisioning peaceful fishing in tranquil lakes or seeking the thrill of sailing the open seas, this guide marks the beginning of your dream voyage.

Fun fact!  The year 2019 saw the second-highest number of boat sales in 12 years. 

Well, let’s prepare to embark on the exhilarating path to becoming a boat owner – no need for a lifejacket, just a sense of adventure!

Understanding Your Boating Needs

The image of a boats at a parking in Montenegro

Embarking on the adventure of buying your first boat is like setting sail into a new world of possibilities, where the water is your playground, and every outing is a unique story. But before you dive into the deep end, let us anchor down and consider what floats your boat, literally! 

Are you dreaming of serene mornings casting lines in search of the big catch, or do you crave the adrenaline rush of watersports, slicing through waves like a hot knife through butter? 

Maybe you are envisioning lazy afternoons cruising with loved ones or feeling the thrill of harnessing the wind while sailing. Each activity calls for a different kind of vessel – fishing boats come equipped with gear-specific amenities, watersports boats boast powerful engines and wakeboarding rigs, cruisers offer comfort for longer journeys, and sailboats, well, bring the romance of the seas to life.

Now, let us talk about size and type. It is not just about the size of the boat, but the size of your dreams and, of course, the practicalities. A cozy dinghy or a sleek speedboat? A majestic yacht or a rugged fishing boat? The size matters as much as the type. Consider where you will be voyaging – tranquil lakes, flowing rivers, or the vast ocean. Each waterway has its character, and your boat needs to match that. And let us not forget how often you will be hitting the waves. Is boating your weekend ritual or your once-in-a-summer escapade? Regular sailors might justify splurging on a state-of-the-art vessel, while occasional adventurers might opt for something more modest.

In the world of boating, matching your boat to your lifestyle is not just practical; it is the secret ingredient to creating unforgettable memories on the water. So, weigh your options, consider your desires, and let your boating dreams set the course!

Budgeting for Your Boat

The initial purchase cost is your first wave to surf, whether you are eyeing a nimble kayak or a majestic yacht. This upfront cost is like the launch of your nautical journey, a significant investment that unlocks the gates to endless aquatic adventures. But smart sailors know the sea is deeper than it looks. Beyond the purchase price lies the ocean of ongoing expenses, each as important as a compass in uncharted waters.

As you chart your course in this new marine life, factor in the essentials like maintenance, the unsung hero that keeps your boat in tip-top shape, and fuel, the wind in your sails for those exhilarating sea escapades. Do not forget to dock your budget at the harbors of storage and insurance, ensuring your vessel is safe both on and off the water. But worry not, for the sea of boat ownership is not all stormy. Financing options can spread the cost like a gentle sea breeze, making the dream more accessible. And when it comes to accessories and safety gear, it is not just an expenditure, it is an investment in your maritime saga. 

From life vests to navigational tools, these are the treasures that make your boating experience not just safe, but truly remarkable. So, grab your captain’s hat and set sail on this thrilling voyage, with a budget that is as well-planned as your nautical routes!

Choosing the Right Boat

Sattahip, Chon Buri, Thailand, 28 Apr: Tourist boats are floating in the sea in the morning time, Thailand on April 28, 2019

Choosing the right boat is like picking a loyal companion for your sea adventures, where every detail matters, from the deck to the deep blue beneath. The first crossroads in this journey is the classic debate: new vs. used. Opting for a new boat is like unwrapping a present; everything is shiny, and uncharted, with the latest tech at your fingertips, accompanied by warranties and a scent of fresh paint. On the flip side, a used boat can be a treasure trove of value, offering character and stories, often at a more wallet-friendly price. It is the difference between writing the first chapter of a boat’s story or continuing a tale already rich with maritime memories.

As you navigate through the fleet of options, keep a keen eye on key features that match your sea aspirations. Are you looking for a speed demon to slice through waves, or a gentle giant for leisurely cruises? Examine the boat specifications as carefully as a captain studies a nautical chart. Size, horsepower, hull design – these are not just specs, they are the ingredients of your future sea escapades. And let us not overlook the importance of brand and model reputation. A good brand is like a trusted sea captain, promising reliability, and quality. It is the beacon that guides you through a sea of choices to a boat that not only floats but flies on the water, turning your nautical dreams into reality. 

If you are looking for something to spend nights on, a houseboat might be a great choice. However, if you want to spend time driving and engaging in watersports, a faster speedboat is what you will look for.  You can also consider options like a pontoon houseboat as well.

Inspection and Trial

When embracing your dream boat, think of inspection and trial as your trusty navigational tools, ensuring you are setting sail on a vessel worthy of your maritime adventures. A thorough inspection is like a treasure hunt, where you delve into every nook and cranny of the boat, seeking signs of wear or hidden gems of value. It is about tapping into your inner detective, scrutinizing the engine, sails, hull, and electronics – every element that makes your boat more than just a floating piece of art. And then comes the sea trial, the ultimate test drive on the open water.

It is where you feel the boat’s soul, understanding how it cuts through waves, listens to your commands, and dances with the wind. For the savvy sailors eyeing a used vessel, bringing aboard a marine surveyor is like having a wise old sea captain by your side, offering expertise to uncover the boat’s true condition. This trio of inspection, sea trial, and expert opinion is not just due diligence, it’s your rite of passage into confident boat ownership, ensuring your sea tales are of adventures, not misadventures.

If you’re looking for a secondhand boat, find someone trustworthy to buy from. Most people out there are out there to help you. They want you to get the boat you want so you can enjoy it on the water. Unfortunately, there are some bad actors out there. Look into the person or boat dealership you are buying from to make sure there are no complaints. If a business has a bad reputation, you will be able to find out on the internet.

Legal and Documentation

Sailing through the seas of legalities and documentation is an essential voyage for every boat owner, akin to charting a course through unexplored waters. Think of registration and titling as your boat’s passport and identity card, allowing it to explore the vast aquatic playgrounds. It is not just about compliance; it is about belonging to the grand tapestry of the maritime world. Delving into maritime laws is like learning the language of the seas, understanding the rights of way, environmental regulations, and the etiquette that makes the waterways a harmonious place for all.

And regarding safety certifications, it is not just ticking a box. It is arming yourself with the shield and armor to face the unpredictable nature of the seas, ensuring that your adventures are not just exhilarating but also enveloped in the arms of safety. This journey through the legal and documentation requirements maze transforms you from a mere boat enthusiast into a responsible mariner, ready to navigate the waters confidently and respectfully.

Making the Purchase

Purchasing your dream boat is when anticipation and reality blend like the horizon at sunset. Negotiating the price is not just haggling; it’s an art form, a dance of numbers where you and the seller find that sweet spot, a fair wind beneficial for both. 

Finalizing the sale then comes into play, transforming your dream from a wispy cloud into a tangible reality. It’s a meticulous process, dotted with paperwork that tells the story of your boat, ensuring everything is above board and sea-worthy. Payment methods are the final knot to tie, a straightforward transaction that could range from a simple exchange to more elaborate financing arrangements. 

And then, the grand finale – taking delivery of the boat. This is not just a handover; it’s a ceremonial passage, the baton being passed as you become the new captain of your ship, ready to carve your wake in the endless blue. This moment, where dreams are docked into reality, marks the beginning of countless voyages and stories waiting to be written on the vast canvas of the seas.

Boat Maintenance and Care

Caucasian man using a pressure washer to clean boat hull

Boat maintenance and care is like the rhythm of the sea – regular, essential, and soothing in its promise of longevity and reliability. Adhering to a maintenance schedule resembles a seasoned sailor reading the winds, knowing when to trim the sails or tighten the ropes. It is about preserving the heart and soul of your vessel, ensuring every engine hum and hull gleam speaks of your dedication.

Winterizing your boat is like tucking it into a cozy berth, protecting it from the harsh elements, and ensuring that it wakes up rejuvenated for the spring tides. And long-term care? It is a commitment, a relationship with your boat that goes beyond the surface, delving into the depths of detail and attention. This ongoing journey of care and upkeep is not just about sustaining your boat; it is about cherishing a prized possession, a loyal companion that carries you across the waves to new horizons and adventures. With every polish, repair, and check, you are not just maintaining a boat but nurturing a dream afloat on the endless blue.

Different types of boats for newbies

Here are some popular types of boats that are generally considered good for beginners:

  1. Dinghies or Small Sailboats: These are small, lightweight boats that are easy to navigate and control, making them perfect for learning the basics of sailing. One or two people typically sail them, which can be used in protected waters like lakes and calm bays.
  2. Kayaks and Canoes: Ideal for individual or dual-use, kayaks and canoes offer a direct, hands-on experience with water navigation. They’re excellent for exploring rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. These vessels require physical paddling, offering recreational and workout activities.
  3. Pontoon Boats: Known for their stability and flat decks, pontoon boats are great for leisurely cruises on lakes and calm rivers. They offer plenty of space for family and friends and can be used for fishing, swimming, or relaxing on the water.
  4. Jon Boats: These flat-bottomed boats are simple, durable, and designed primarily for fishing in calm, inland waters. Jon boats are a good choice for beginners due to their stability and ease of handling.
  5. Inflatable Boats: Inflatable boats are versatile, easy to store, and transport, making them a great option for beginners with limited space. They can be used for fishing, cruising, and as tenders for larger boats.
  6. Center Console Boats: Center console boats offer a versatile platform for those interested in fishing and general boating. They have an open deck area with a steering station in the center, providing 360-degree access to the water around the boat. These boats are more suitable for coastal areas and larger bodies of water.
  7. Bowriders: Bowriders are family-friendly boats with seating in the front (the bow) and throughout the boat. They’re designed for day use, offering a comfortable ride for cruising, water sports, and relaxation.
  8. Personal Watercraft (PWC): Also known as jet skis, PWCs are for those seeking an adrenaline rush. They’re fast, fun, and easy to maneuver but require a bit of practice to handle safely.


Entering the world of boat ownership is an adventure beyond acquiring a vessel; it is a commitment to a life rich with freedom and excitement. Each step, from recognizing your needs to diligent maintenance, deepens your bond with the open waters. This path does not just make you a boat owner; it turns you into a storyteller and a dreamer, forever pursuing distant horizons. In this world, every wave you ride and every sunset you chase is not just a moment but a thrilling part of your endless sea adventure.